A brief look at the definition of the Horror Fiction Genre makes us realise that the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

As children, we might be afraid of the shadows looming from a half-closed closet door or of the monster we believe lies under the bed. Terrors of the imagination run wild at that age and encompass those things that seem to stand outside of rational explanation. Like the sense of a menacing presence in the shadows just behind us that may or may not disappear if we can only gather up the courage to turn around and face it. As adults, our fears become more sophisticated, more grounded in worldly events.


Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives the primary definition of horror as "a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay." Horror fiction is, broadly, fiction intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. Although a good deal of it is about the supernatural, any fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, suspenseful or frightening theme may be termed "horror"; conversely, many stories of the supernatural are not horror. Horror fiction often overlaps with science fiction and fantasy, all of which form the umbrella category.

The Horror fiction genre requires that the reader engages in a conspiracy that agrees to suspend the rules of everyday. Readers must invest strong psychological belief in the literary worlds that are presented.

Horror is an experience of safety and conservatism. Readers are allowed to risk it all from the pleasurable nook of their protected and rule-governed psychological "home" through contrast with the terrifying and the chaotic.

As may naturally be expected of a form so closely connected with primal emotion, the horror-tale is as old as both human thought and speech themselves. Let's face it: Horror has been around as long as man and his fear of the dark.
The inhabitants of the horror fiction genre are also as old as storytelling itself. Most familiar are ghosts, demons, vampires, zombies, etc, that seemingly inhabit a twilight zone that occasionally seeps into our own reality, especially around times like Halloween. The thin membrane that separates the living from the dead opens fleetingly and something, usually evil, slips through.

The horror writers of today trace their literary ancestors back to Beowulf, Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, even to Shakespeare.

The horror novel has a rich background with such early advocates of the horror form being H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, who were also considered to be masters of the art. The most obvious of these background forms is the gothic novel variety of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and, less obviously, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein. These and many others shaped the horror fiction genre as we know it today.

Contemporary writers have got to include the likes such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, Dean Koontz authors that characterise much of the current mainstream of this genre.

The rise of the Internet has allowed horror authors and fans to create new subsets of the genre. On a lighter note about the genre, there's one thing to remember: The basic idea of horror is that it's got to be horrible.

www.findmeanauthor.com © 2012 Steve Bennett
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